When I reviewed the OP-Z from Teenage Engineering, I was most curious about the expansion port. The diminutive portable synth and sequencer already packed a lot of musical power into a small box. The fact it could be further expanded was exciting. Today we're seeing one such example, with the announcement of the "rumble" module.
As the name suggests, the rumble module ($89) adds haptic feedback to the OP-Z, courtesy of a collaboration with Lofelt (of Basslet fame). At its most basic, rumble endows the OP-Z ($599) with a silent, vibrating metronome. Slot the module in, and you can feel the tempo, rather than hear it with the typical (and annoying) shrill "beep."
Of course, Teenage Engineering is all about creative fun, so you can also use the rumble module to add haptic "bass" to the OP-Z. That's where Lofelt made its name, with the wearable "subwoofer" Basslet. Haptic "bass" (it's of course, not bass at all, technically) gives the illusion of hearing/feeling low frequencies through the smart conversion of those frequencies into tactile movement.
Originally, Teenage Engineering was going to bake compatibility with the Basslet right into the OP-Z. That feature never materialized, and Lofelt has since moved on to more extensive products (such as its collaboration with Razer). So it's good to see that the idea wasn't totally lost.
Haptics are becoming a popular way of incorporating new feedback into our gadgets. It's more than just having your phone in "vibrate" mode, as anyone who's ever felt the slightly creepy "heartbeat" vibrations from an Apple Watch can tell you. Companies like Lofelt are fine-tuning the experience so that the haptic sensation is nuanced and specific. You won't just feel the bass, you'll sense all its textures, much like standing in front of a speaker, or when that guy drives past with a $4,000 car audio system.
Rumble joins the oplab module (MIDi and CV connectivity) on the Teenage Engineering website today, for the aforementioned $89.